The Christmas Boat Parade. Mayor’s Reception. Police Appreciation Breakfast. Wake Up! Newport. Economic Forecast. Inspire Women in Business. Navigate Young Professionals. Sandcastle Contest. Ribbon Cuttings.
Those are just a few of the events and seminars hosted by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.
“We are the most active Chamber of Commerce in the county, and probably one of the top in the state,” said Newport Beach Chamber President and CEO Steve Rosansky, who marked 10 years as the head of the Chamber in January. “It’s a lot of work, but we have a good team here, we pump out a lot of product. We have a dozen major civic events every year, about 50 to 60 monthly events a year—all told we probably do about 80 events a year, which is more than one a week. A lot of Chambers might have a breakfast thing or a mixer, but nobody has as robust a program as we do.”
The Newport Chamber also has a robust membership list. Rosansky said they currently have 717 members, the most since Rosansky took over the top spot at the Chamber in January of 2013.
Rosansky transitioned to the Chamber after serving nine years on the Newport Beach City Council, including a year as mayor. Now, he’s the mayor of the business community. Even his license plate sports a Biz Mayor moniker.
According to his bio, Rosansky landed in Newport Beach in 1985 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business and the UCLA School of Law. He joined the Costa Mesa law firm, Rutan & Tucker, as a transactional real estate attorney, then left to form his own real estate brokerage, Newport West Real Estate.
For the next 30 years, he was self-employed as a real estate broker primarily engaged in the sale of small investment and residential property as well as residential mortgage brokerage.
During that time Steve and his wife Gina also owned and operated several restaurants, including a Togo’s and Baskin Robbins combo store in Orange.
Rosansky embarked on a political career when he was appointed to the Newport Beach City Council in 2003 after serving on the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission. He won election in 2004 and re-election in 2008. In 2007 he served as the Mayor of Newport Beach.
Soon after terming out of his City Council position, Steve joined the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, but he never imagined staying for 10 years.
“I was finishing nine years on the City Council, my wife and I had sold our last restaurant, so in December of 2012 two-thirds of my daily life went away,” said Rosansky. “Once you leave the City Council people look to the new council members, not the old ones, for advice or help. I still wanted to stay relevant in the community. It so happened that Richard Luehrs, who spent 30 years as the Chamber president, was retiring and they needed someone to fill in. I did not come here with the intention of taking on the job full time, I was volunteering until they could find a replacement. What I thought was going to be 10 weeks has turned into 10 years.”
Rosansky admitted it was a struggle at first because the Chamber had some financial challenges to overcome, but Rosansky saw the challenges as an opportunity.
“That’s part of the fun of being here—the challenge of how can we make this thing work. Ten years later, I am still trying to make this work.”
Rosansky has become the face of the chamber. He enjoys being out in public, representing the Chamber and connecting with people.
“It’s a fun, creative outlet for me,” stated Rosansky. “I am always trying to reinvent the Chamber. People get bored so you constantly have to spice it up, maybe change the venue or how you do an event.”
One of the Chamber’s most successful programs is the monthly Wake Up! Newport meetings that Rosansky launched soon into his tenure as Chamber President.
“The Chamber had a government affairs meeting, but not more than 20 people would show up,” explained Rosansky. “I thought why not open it up to everyone? I got the library to agree to let us have the meetings there and we opened it to the public. I have prided myself on getting prominent relevant speakers. This month we have Gary Sherwin (President and CEO of Newport Beach and Co.), after that we have the Newport Beach Mayor, and then the President of Chapman University. They are all relevant speakers.”
During the pandemic, Rosansky was still front and center as the face of the Chamber with regular informational videos aimed at Chamber members and the public.
“We bought a video camera six months before the pandemic—we had been talking for years about doing videos but it was at the bottom of the list of things to do,” said Rosansky. “I had an idea to maybe go to member businesses and put together some videos, but the camera sat in the box for six months. A few days into the pandemic, everyone was sheltering at home, so we got the camera out of the box and shot a video to let the members know we are still here to help them.”
That initial video was three minutes, and simply told the members “we feel your pain, we are working this thing through with you, we are here for you.”
As information about the pandemic continued to come in, Rosansky did another video, then another.
“At the end, we did close to 150 videos,” said Rosansky. “They are still on our YouTube page. Out of all the things I have done at the Chamber, that was the most important. It was a time when people were hunkered down, so the videos provided relevant, timely and accurate information. At the end of every video I said call me or email me, and people did. To this day people thank me for those videos.”
Rosansky believes the videos also helped increase Chamber membership.
“People felt we were there for them, and connected. It cemented in people’s minds the importance of the Chamber, and prominence of the Chamber. Aa lot of chambers are going the way of buggy whip companies. You have to change with the times. We have adapted though social media and creative programming, things like that, to make sure members get something in return for their money.”
At the end of the day, said Rosansky, “I am here because I want to be here. I enjoy what I am doing, it’s given me an outlet to still be involved in town and be relevant and useful. I could be doing other things, but I choose to be here because I feel like I am helping and making a difference. When you chisel the words in my headstone, I want it to say ‘He left it better than he found it.’ That’s why I do what I do.”
For information on the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, visit www.NewportBeach.com.